ethnic group

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ethnic group

a group of people sharing an identity which arises from a collective sense of a distinctive history (see also ETHNICITY). Ethnic groups possess their own CULTURE, CUSTOMS, NORMS, beliefs and traditions. There is usually a common LANGUAGE, and boundary maintenance is observed between members and non-members. As well as by birth, ethnic group membership may be acquired through marriage or other socially sanctioned routes.

Whilst socially perceived racial characteristics may be a feature of such groups, ethnic groups are not synonymous with racial groups (see RACE). According to C. Peach et al. (1981), British academic concern with the subject of ethnicity increased as a result of black immigration in the postwar period. Thus, despite the presence of immigrants, refugees and ethnic minorities prior to this period, it was the combination of racial and ethnic distinctiveness which gave rise to both popular and academic interest in the subject. One result of this has been the confusion of the term ‘ethnic minority’ with racial minority, in the UK culture.

The anthropologist, Narroll (1964), stressed the importance of shared cultural values and a group awareness of cultural distinctiveness as key elements in ethnic group membership. Barth (1970) places emphasis on group organization and the maintenance of ethnic boundaries via ETHNIC MARKERS. He suggests that the boundaries between ethnic groups are maintained not through isolation, as Narroll argues, but through social processes of exclusion and incorporation, i.e. ethnic group members identify themselves in terms of ethnic categories and are in turn recognized as members by outsiders. REX (1986), in turn, has criticized Barth for his failure to consider conflict between ethnic groups and for his imprecise use of the term ‘group’. Rex also raises the question, immigrants aside, of the continued saliency of ethnic groupings in complex industrial societies and the utility of the concept as a precise basis of classification.

In societies in turmoil, however, ethnic groupings retain their importance and may be given added salience (or constructed) by political conflict, as in the former Yugoslavia, where the highly charged phrase ‘ethnic cleansing’ has appeared. An important distinction must therefore be drawn between those ethnic groups which consciously seek to assert their ethnicity, and those seen as ethnic minorities by more powerful groups (see also HOLOCAUST, GENOCIDE). In such cases, ethnic characteristics may be exaggerated or created to serve group interests and cohesion as well as to fuel conflict. The reverse side of the coin is when complex symbolic practices may be mobilized not to accentuate boundaries and divisions between groups, but to understate these in order to maximize INTEGRATION or ASSIMILATION. For example, in contemporary Britain, Pakistani Christian refugees may seek to minimize group differences. There are also cases in which ethnic group differences may be formulated in a climate of CULTURAL PLURALISM.

Where ethnicity is the basis for minority status, discriminatory practices against such groups may be legitimated by institutionalized means. As is widely apparent, ethnic minority status often seriously jeopardizes an individual's or group's life chances, particularly in relation to health, housing and employment.

It should also be noted that approaches to social stratification based on economic inequality find it difficult to treat the question of ethnicity adequately. See STATUS CONSISTENCY AND INCONSISTENCY. See also RACISM.

Ethnic Group


(Russian, etnicheskaia gruppa), a community of people that have similar languages and cultures. Examples of an ethnic group are the ancient Slavs and the ancient Germans. Typical ethnic groups today are the Celtic peoples, who no longer speak a common language but have preserved their cultural and ethnographic identity; the Paleoasiatic peoples of the northeastern USSR; the Eskimo of the USSR, Canada, the USA, and Greenland; the American Indians; and the Arabs of Asia and Africa. An ethnic group should be distinguished from an ethnographic group, which is a segment of a people.

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They compared medical records of each of the 90 with records of two or three other breast cancer patients matched by age, ethnic background, year of diagnosis and years of follow-up.
Our informal survey found that regardless of ethnic background, most families make a turkey and very few make any kind of ethnic main dish.
coming up with a very conservative, but still very workable solution that would allow you to put a frequency on these patterns without going into gory detail about someone's ethnic background," says panel member Eric S.
Whilst there are many factors, the report suggests that discrimination plays its part because people with a name that implies they are from a white ethnic background who apply for a job are almost twice as likely to be called for an interview, than those with a minority ethnic sounding name.
Washington, Oct 7 (ANI): South Asians are at an increased risk of developing diabetes owing to their ethnic background, which affects higher fat and lower muscle mass, according to a Canadian study.
As we reported this month, 22-month-old Iona Stratton is battling leukaemia but because of her ethnic background - half-Chinese, half-English - there's a shortage of suitable bone marrow donors.
The best match for a donor comes from the same ethnic background as the recipient, so the trust are always looking to recruit people from non-white groups.
and It Wells In Me is a collection of brief poems by members of the Poetry Society of Michigan, a gathering of talented individuals from all ethnic background educational levels, and age ranges, bound together by a common love of poetry.
At one of the target colleges, 42 percent of entering students listed "White" as their ethnic background on admissions information.
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Phinney, Romero, Nava, and Huang (2001) found that ethnic minority adolescents who interacted more with peers of the same ethnic background had more developed levels of ethnic identity.
The ethnic background each executive is not a question--it's a BE article and the cover photograph tells the But I'm still proud beyond words.